Win­ner sees value in Startup Week­end

Says en­trepreneurs get prac­tice pitch­ing

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - BUSINESS - By Nicole Raz Las Ve­gas Re­view-journal

Daniel Lopez came to Tech­stars Startup Week­end in Las Ve­gas with an idea he’s been car­ry­ing around with him since 2015.

He left Startup Week­end with a min­i­mum vi­able prod­uct called Surestep, a team and the loot that comes with win­ning first place.

“I al­most didn’t go,” Lopez said. “I was just go­ing to see what it was, and I thought it would be a fun week­end.”

Surestep is an app in­tended to solve is­sues in the drug treat­ment court sys­tem, which hears cases in­volv­ing adult de­fen­dants with drug abuse and/or ad­dic­tion is­sues.

Around 3,000 such courts were op­er­at­ing in the U.S. as of June 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Jus­tice. Un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a judge, peo­ple deemed ad­dicts agree to un­dergo manda­tory so­bri­ety meet­ings, group ther­apy ses­sions and ran­dom drug test­ing.

A niche chal­lenge

Lopez said he found him­self in the Ne­vada drug court sys­tem in 2014, af­ter get­ting three DUIS in the span of seven years.

He said he’s com­pleted the three­year pro­gram and has been sober for four years and count­ing.

“Go­ing through the pro­gram let me see things through other peo­ple’s eyes. Peo­ple who had it much harder than I did,” he said.

Go­ing through the pro­gram also let him see where things could be im­proved in the drug court sys­tem.

As part of his court-man­dated pro­gram, he had to get drug tested twice a week.

“Cur­rently, you have to call a phone num­ber every day to know if it’s your day to test,” he said. Par­tic­i­pants are as­signed a color, and then they are re­quired to call the num­ber and check whether their color is to be tested that day.

Savvy tools

In Jan­uary 2015, Lopez said he for­got to call to check the daily color. As a re­sult, he missed a drug test and was pe­nal­ized by spend­ing 48 hours in county jail.

A pro­gram de­vel­oper, Lopez found a way to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing again. He cre­ated a pro­gram that called the num­ber on his be­half. Then, us­ing voice recog­ni­tion, the pro­gram alerted him of the color of the day.

He said he hopes that Surestep is im­ple­mented in counties across the coun­try to help peo­ple stay on track


through the drug court process and to re­place an­ti­quated ways of as­sign­ing ran­dom­ized drug tests.

“Our sys­tem will gen­er­ate ran­dom col­ors and post it on the app and send out text mes­sages and a voice record­ing as well,” he said.

Lopez said he is ex­cited to turn Surestep into a busi­ness. He and his team are still de­vel­op­ing a busi­ness model, but he en­vi­sions a me­tered ser­vice plan, un­der which each county or treat­ment cen­ter could choose which fea­tures to turn on and off, and the price would de­pend on how many par­tic­i­pants use the app.

More op­por­tu­nity

Ciara Byrne, one of the judges at Startup Week­end, said Surestep was “unique” and “un­ex­pected.”

“I think, once they show it can work in one county, it will be a good pi­lot,” Byrne said. “I can see how an app would stream­line things.”

One of the or­ga­niz­ers of Startup

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